Touristy Tuesday: San Francisco, CA – New Years Eve 2013

Happy New Years! What…? it’s April already, you say? Oh, I guess I’m a little late to the party on that one.

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Even though I’m more than a few months overdue on this blog, I wanted to make sure I documented Abe and I’s second San Francisco adventure. Better late than never right? This was really the last city for Abe and I before the big switch of regions and partners, so to say we made the most of it is an understatement. Here’s a preview, or a TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) for you.

  • Bars.
  • Dancing in bars.
  • Falling while dancing in bars.
  • Tourist traps.
  • Touristy adventure with the musician from the aforementioned bar.
  • Airport bars.
  • Football.
  • Book of Mormon – The Musical.
  • New Years Eve.
  • The morning after New Years Eve.

So if that table of contents gives you any indications for what is to come you should be able to deduce two things: First, that it’s going to be a long post. (Sorry I’m not actually sorry!) And second, that it was quite the couple of weeks.

Abe and I rolled into San Francisco after a week in Bakersfield. If you’ve ever been to, or even heard of Bakersfield, you know it isn’t exactly the most glamorous of California destinations and we were eager for a change of pace. San Fran delivered on that immediately when our dynamic duo turned into a trio for a few days, with the arrival of Hotdogger Ron. Abe and I met Ron at the Hotdogger Reunion in Madison back in October and hit it off immediately, especially since Ron and I are both Mizzou J-School/Geology grads. We all just happened to be in San Fran at the same time, so it was inevitable that we would meat up again!

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Once we got to the city we stopped by the hotel just long enough to change, sip some wine (the buzz helps with that BART ride in) and hit the road. San Francisco greeted us with spectacular Christmas displays and after wandering around Union Square for a bit we settled for a Thai place for dinner. After that is when the bar hopping began. I should have known from the get-go that trying to keep up with not one, but TWO Hotdoggers would spell trouble. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite have that foresight.

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We started at Lefty O’Doul’s Piano Bar, and then headed down the street to another pub. The second bar we went to also promised to be a piano bar but it turned out to just be a singer and his guitar. We were anything but disappointed because he delivered on our request for Sweet Caroline and then kept the hits coming after that. When there is live music involved it’s usually not long until Abe starts calling for shots, and sure enough a round quickly appeared.

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Let me pause and set the scene up here. Up until this moment there had been lively music going on in the background thanks to our friend. The guitarist was doing an excellent job and the make-shift dance floor had one stand-out couple doing their best to keep up with the music. It was picture perfect, right? Of course, with shots in hand, that is when the guitarist decides to take a break! Now, I’m the kind of girl that if I’m taking a shot it’s gotta be fun. A silent bar isn’t exactly my style, so with some cajoling I managed to convince the guitarist for one more song. He warily glanced at the couple on the dance floor, who were more shuffling than dancing at this point, but my enthusiasm must have been convincing because he gave in and started up another tune.

Now that’s where it gets a little fuzzy. It must have been a good song because I decided this was the perfect opportunity to dance with this guy on the dance floor, who’s partner had suddenly vanished. It started out as a fun, innocent dance, but ended in a train wreck. Initially things were going well, with some nice high school prom moves. Then he went in to twirl me, only for both of us to realize a little too late that neither of us were ready for that elaborate of a move. Like two asteroids colliding in space, we crashed into each other. He went down first, and then accidentally brought me down with him. (Abe claims I went first, but I beg to differ, perhaps in an effort to salvage some dignity.) Even this is making it sound far more graceful that it really was. We ate it. BIG time. In front of everyone.

Meanwhile, Abe and Ron were enjoying the spectacle from the sidelines laughing hysterically. Abe, who knows my dance moves all too well, looked neither shocked nor surprised at the calamity. The guitarist, who had warned me when I got up to dance that I would be better off going solo, gave me a knowing I-told-you-so grin. With all the charm and grace I could muster, I quickly regained my step, curtseyed, and left joe-shmo to recover on his own.

Embarrassed? Definitely. Regretful? Only slightly. Everyone has to have an experience of being mortified in public at least once, right?

That story might be one of those you-had-to-be-there moments, but rest assured it was a sight to see! When consulting Abe about this blog post he made sure to tell me repeatedly that this was the single funniest moment from our seven months together.

Anyway, the guitarist later came over to introduce himself. I was honestly expecting a lecture on how to adequately select a dance partner (I’m sticking with Abe from now on) but he ended up just chatting us up. He had a strong accent that I hadn’t noticed while he was singing, which turned out to be Croatian, and introduced himself as Demir. Now believe it or not, but I happen to know just enough Serbian, a sister language of Croatian, to get through introductions. Somehow I think it was my ability to stutter out “Good evening” in his native tongue, rather than my dance skills, that kicked off the friendship. Although Ron, Abe, and I piled into a cab and headed back to the hotel we were all staying at, we made plans for Demir to show us all around San Francisco later in the week.

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The next day was a true Touristy Tuesday, and this one actually fell on a Tuesday! We started off with a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge. Although Abe and I had seen it on our first trip to San Francisco we hadn’t actually been there in the Wienermobile, a photo op we couldn’t exactly pass up.

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The second time around the weather was absolutely beautiful, with totally clear skies this time, and we had much better parking having charmed the bike cops with Wiener Whistles.

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From the Golden Gate Bridge we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf for the first clam fest of many to be had in San Francisco.

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The smell of sourdough captured our senses and we were drawn into the famous Boudin’s Bakery.

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We scored a table overlooking the water and while we waited there were plenty of pretty incredible creatures made out of dough to marvel at. I love bread and I love cool stuff made out of food, so I adored this place! (Send me an Edible Arrangement over flowers almost any day.)

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Between the clam chowder and the clam pizza, it was a true San Francisco adventure.

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After Boudin’s, we headed through the Castro district for some sight-seeing and then went over to see the Painted Ladies Victorian houses. This was another picture-perfect moment. The only thing missing were bread baguettes to sword fight with! (Next time I suppose!)

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For the short time Ron got to spend with us he really assimilated well with the SW team – drink a lot, eat a lot, and do a bunch of touristy things in as short amount of time as possible. I think Abe would agree that would sum up our approach to adventure pretty well over the seven months we were together.

The next day Demir from the bar called. Dobro utro! (That’s “good morning” for all of you non-Croatian speakers out there.) Neither Abe or I really expected to get the local’s perspective, but it worked out wonderfully. After lunch in an artsy-fartsy area of town that I’ve now forgotten the name of, Demir showed off everything from the fanciest of houses to some of the prettiest views.

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We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and went driving through the Marin Headlands. Talk about spectacular! Not only did I come out of the afternoon with some beautiful photos, but I landed another passport stamp! I’ve still been avidly collecting stamps for my National Park Passport, opportunities for which have been strikingly less frequent in the Midwest, and we stopped by the visitors center to get one for the Headlands. Success! (Every time I get one of those stamps I think how proud my Grandma should be, having started me on the whole passport craze from an early age.)

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That evening we went to The Trident in Saulsalito for wine and more clam chowder, while overlooking the bay and the city. It had to have been the best view of the city in the area! That was it for the day, but it proved again how much fun this job is – exploring new places with new people!

Sadly, Abe and I did have to actually work some of those days in San Francisco. Between retail events and a stop at the Ronald McDonald house in town we didn’t have much more time for exploring, and soon enough we were headed home for Christmas.

I was flying out Friday evening on what I thought was a red-eye from San Francisco to Kansas City. Guess I should have read that ticket a little closer…. Yes – I left at 7 p.m. and yes – I got in at 8 a.m. But no – that was not all time spent in flight! Turned out I was actually spending the night in Denver’s finest sleeping accommodations – the United Airlines terminal.

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This wasn’t my first time spending the night in a terminal, having previously been stranded in Newark on my 19th birthday, and Denver lacked the charm of terminal life that Tom Hanks had portrayed so nicely. Oh well, six hours later I was in a slightly comfier, albeit more squished seat headed home.

Even with the headache of overnight travel, it was still a fun trip back. My flight out of San Francisco had actually been delayed numerous times and practically every passenger was camped out at the airport bar. The plane was pretty much filled entirely with 20-something Coloradans going home for Christmas and we had a great time swapping stories from our first years out on our own. If they hadn’t finally called for boarding, I think we would have ended up ordering a bottle of champagne to kick off the winter holidays! We even swapped numbers to meet up on New Years, although that never really panned out.

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Christmas back home was low key and mostly just filled with puppies and good books.

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I feel the need to bring this up specifically given the amount of going out I mention in this blog post. I have to reassert my wholesomeness, ya know?

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In all seriousness, I spent most of my time back in Kansas City curled up by the fire working my way through Pride & Prejudice. That kicked off the classic novel spree that lasted throughout the month of January. (I’ll come clean and admit that it even started impacting my vocabulary!) After Pride & Prejudice I started Jane Eyre and it just continued from there.

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While I was home we also celebrated my step mom’s birthday. With it being so close to Christmas she has had the unfortunate luck of being lumped in with the holidays each year growing up, so I try to always be over-the-top with her birthday now.

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After a few days home, I was due back to San Francisco. Although we get two weeks off for the winter holidays, Abe and I were on a special assignment that was breaking up our off days. For the last three years Kraft has been sponsoring the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl and this year Navy was playing Arizona State at AT&T park. (Yes, AT&T Park is a baseball stadium. Apparently you can play football at it too – who knew?!)

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Abe and I had the tough job of attending the pre-game pep rally in Union Square, staying at Hotel Nikko (which was also on the square) and watching the game from the Kraft box suite. I know – working over the holidays is really rough.

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While the game was a bit of a wash, with Navy losing pretty horribly, one great thing came out of it: this picture.Hotdogger photo bomb

(My friend from high school, Kalah, goes to ASU and saw this in one of her friends’ Facebook albums. Not sure what exactly I’m doing back there, but it was the perfect photo bomb. Probably just being my usual over-enthusiastic self.)

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After our work with the Kraft Bowl was done Abe and I decided to stick around for New Years Eve in San Francisco. I had two goals: have an awesome time on New Years Eve and then check California off the Race for 50 States by doing a half marathon in the morning on New Years Day. Clearly there was some dissonance between those two goals and it was either one or the other. You can probably guess which one I achieved. (Or maybe not, I really do love running.) Spoiler alert: it was the first at the expense of the second.

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Our boss Ed had told us that the Union Square Westin always has a really elaborate and over-the-top New Years Eve party each year, the biggest in San Francisco. The theme was Passport to the World, with 10+ rooms with different international themes, an open bar, and tons of live entertainment. Although the shock value associated with the ticket price would be good content, I’m too embarrassed to admit how much the tickets actually were. Regardless, it was completely worth it.

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Each room had a separate theme, from Asian to 80’s. We were a little confused on the 80’s theme, since that’s not really a country, but hey – why question it because that was one of the best rooms in the place. We used the night as an excuse to pull out the formal wear we had been lugging around for months and actually put our fancy pants on!

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We wandered from room to room, bar to bar, enjoying the ample amounts of people watching. That was probably my favorite part. Everyone was dressed to the nines and I felt like I had stepped into a C-list version of People Magazine! All the dancing we did that night went well and there were no repeat collision incidents to be had.

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After a few hours and more than a few drinks, the countdown to 2013 started. Then, at the stroke of midnight, it happened. Abe and I kissed. Or rather, according to Abe, I kissed him. It may not have been reciprocal. While I certainly believe that story, the combination of it being two hours after my typical bedtime and more than two drinks past my usual limit, I don’t totally remember all the details. It was certainly our first, last, and only kiss that we will ever share. But hey – it’s NYE and it was in the spirit of Auld Lang Syne!

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The trip home was equally adventurous. Trying to figure out CalTrain vs. the BART after midnight on New Years is something you only need to do once in your life. Luckily some kind fellow travelers pointed us in the right direction and we eventually made it back to the hotel.

  • Formal wear – Check!
  • Champagne toast – Check!
  • Midnight kiss – Check!

I’d call that a successful New Years Eve!

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The next morning was less of a success. I actually woke up a couple hours later, at 6 a.m. for the half marathon, and promptly turned over, hit the snooze button, and decided to wake up when 2013 was a few more hours old.

The rest of our time in San Francisco was spent mostly in recovery mode. Partly from New Years Eve and partly from being sick. Abe had the flu and decided to spend most of his time in bed, while I was still determined to get out and about.

We did have one good brunch at this psuedo-southern restaurant called Farmer Brown’s, which had a spectacular buffet featuring chicken and waffles, grits, and bottomless mimosas. At this point we were really only interested in the first two options, and decided to save the mimosas for next time. This was an unexpected treat, which I wouldn’t have expected in trendy, hip San Francisco. It was the perfect post-NYE menu though, that’s for sure!

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If San Francisco is known for anything besides the bridge, it’s known for the gay community and I needed to experience a little bit of that before I left. Since doing anything on Castro Street beyond just driving it is a little too adventurous for me, I decided to take a different route.

As a big fan of musicals I have been dying to see The Book of Mormon since I first heard about it. (Trust me – there is definitely a bit of fab-u-lous in it.) Having been to Salt Lake City, gotten my own copy of the Book of Mormon while there, and been to both the Temple Square and Tabernacle Choir, seeing the musical seemed like a natural next step! (Maybe more of a leap, from serious to nonsensical, but it holds with the Mormon theme at least.)

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Abe and I had looked into tickets, but since it would have been a week’s salary for each of us we just wrote it off. Then, while out on my own grabbing dinner one night, I saw a huge crowd around a theater. I didn’t realize it until then, but I was right by the venue the musical was at! It was about 7:40 and I assumed the curtain call was probably 8 p.m. – talk about the perfect time for cheap, last minute tickets! I figured I would at least see what tickets were going for, just in case it wasn’t astronomical.

I went up to a scalper who said face value was $300. Gulp
Me – “Thanks but no thanks! Have a good one!”
Him – “Well, how much did you want to pay…?”
Me – “I don’t know that I even want to pay three digits for a ticket, much less $300!”
Him – “Oh, no way is that happening. I just sold a pair for $750.”
Me – “BBYYEE.”

By the time I had picked up a quick bite and started walking back to the hotel it was 7:55 and the scalper still had the same number of tickets in his hands. I knew I was golden at that point.

Me – “So are they $100 yet?”
Him – “Hey now! Don’t count my money just yet.”
Me – “Alright, well when will they be $100?” (Figuring I could easily just wait it out at this point.)

And just like that, at the 8:00 curtain call, I ended up with a center orchestra seat to one of the hottest shows in town. I was talking to the couple next to me and they just happened to mention that they had paid $900 for their two tickets! This was probably one of the prouder moments of negotiating I’ve had on the road, that’s for sure!

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The show itself was absolutely hysterical. It was a little too over-the-top, even for my taste, at times, but that is probably to be expected when the writers are the same guys who put together South Park.

And that was it for San Francisco! The day after New Years I was on a flight back to the Midwest to start the Southern road trip portion of break, for the Mississippi Blues Marathon.

Even though Abe and I had one hell of a good time in San Francisco, it is still a city I need to eventually make it back to. There are still a few things to do there on my bucket list, mainly running across the Golden Gate Bridge! I know – how did I not do that?! I also want to see Alcatraz and go out to John Muir Woods to get another stamp for the good old National Park Passport. Since I bailed on my race for California I have to make it back to the Golden State sometime anyway! Till next time San Francisco!

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What’s Next?!

Well – the Marine Corps Marathon is officially 10 days away! 18 weeks of training, 100s of miles, over seven states and it’s finally happening!

So with just a few days left before the race, naturally the question is – What’s next?

Being your stereotypical Type-A runner, I prefer to have my next race(s) lined up before I cross the finish line of the one I’m training for. Looking ahead and trying to plan something was like a jigsaw puzzle though. The race needed to fit in with my work schedule (which takes pretty much all my weekends, leaving really only the holidays), it needed to be in a new state, and it needed to be cool. Call me superficial, but I like fun race medals and a lively race atmosphere. Let’s be honest – I’m a sucker for a good theme race.

But, I am also ready to step it up. Frankly, I’m not ready to call it quits at 26.2! One of my goals is to get into ultra territory and I’m really looking forward to eventually doing a 50k. That’s right ultra-marathoning = 50ks.

(Pardon this side rant: I’ve heard from some people lately who don’t think a 50k should qualify as an ultra-marathon. Hey running jerks – it’s longer than a marathon. It’s an ultra. Get off your high horse and be excited for everyone! Maybe it’s not 100 miles, but it’s certainly more than 26.2 and every mile after that counts.)

Anyway, given the tight parameters I was working within to find my next race I found a few race options. There were not one, but two ultras in North Carolina that I considered – one was a 50k and the other was a 6 hour endurance run. With those options it should have been a sign to go for it!

Ultimately though, I decided to sign up for the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, MS.

Granted, it was really the only marathon option that worked for me. But, I was also sold on the awesome race medals and other swag, like a blues CD and a harmonica!

I don’t know too much about the city of Jackson, but with all this talk about blues music I’m hoping there will be a few good places to enjoy soul food and a fun night out that weekend.

I decided to skip the North Carolina 50k for now, not totally ready to commit to what it takes for that type of run. I really want to be wild and reckless, and who knows – I just might be, but for now Jackson, MS it is January 5th!

Of course, they don’t call it a runner’s high for nothing. After signing up for the marathon I was already craving my next fix and looking at the work schedule to see when I could squeeze another race in.

I’ve been nagging Abe to run with me and so we started looking at half marathons in the not so distant future. I found the perfect race – for me anyway, not him though! New Years Day in San Francisco! (Abe immediately wrote off any plans for running that day, so as for now I’m running solo.) The run is actually part of a series, with another run on 12/29. If you run both, you get an incredibly awesome Mega-Medal – which of course I have to have!

This was the mega-medal for last year!

Although I signed up for the New Year’s Day half in a heartbeat, I’m waiting to sign up for the 12/29 race until I know more of my work schedule. We’re flying into San Francisco for the Kraft Bowl, so that’s a big deal and I don’t want to plan anything until I know all those details. I’m committed to earning that Mega-Medal though, so whether I do the 5k, 10k, or half marathon the first day I’m going to be running something!

I also get a week off for spring break March 25th through April 1st that I’m hoping to sneak a race in as well. Go figure there are exactly zero marathons that weekend!

Running keeps me sane while on the road, so I might try to see if I can working something out with the ‘top dogs’ at work to see if I can possibly get a weekend earlier in March to do a race. Sean (who I ran the Hospital Hill Half and Warrior Dash with last year) and Kathy (from the Rockford Half Marathon) are both trying to get me to run Little Rock in early March, but there are still a few other races I’m considering as well.

That’s it for now, one race coming up and two more on the calendar! Although, who knows what I might sign myself up for next – I am feeling wild and reckless!

Touristy Tuesday: San Francisco and Monterey, CA Edition

-Each Tuesday I post about my last week in a new city. These tend to be more like travelogues, but you might find some running anecdotes scattered in here too! But be warned, these post always end up being novels!–

After two weeks in the Arizona heat Abe and I headed back to California! Coming from 118 degree weather, we were anything but prepared for the 68 degree days that we experienced over the last week! Despite the unexpectedly chilly weather, I was pleasantly surprised with all that the area had in store for us.

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With two days off right away, Abe and I rented a car and headed to San Francisco. It’s always a nice reprieve from the company car when we splurge for a rental and it set us up for a few low key days to just be tourists! Immediately we plugged in the gps coordinates for our first stop: the Golden Gate Bridge!

What a spectacular sight. The Grand Canyon was an unbelivable natural wonder, but the Golden Gate Bridge was a man-made architectural marvel. I had no idea it was just so big! Yes, yes, yes – I’ve seen the history channel “making of” shows that illustrates how thick the cabling is, but I think it is definitely something you have to see to really understand the magnitude of. Did you know that bridge is 1.6 miles across?! How is that even possible?

I, of course, was delighted to acquire one more stamp for my National Park Passport. Naturally, it was the second time in a row I forgot the darn thing and just had to stamp some scrap paper to paste in later.

Abe and I walked about halfway across the bridge, overlooking the bay and Alcatraz.

From the Bridge we continued on our tour of all the great San Francisco tourist stops. First, we drove through the Presidio.

Then we headed up and down those crazy San Francisco streets to Lombard Street. It was just like in the movies! Not only would the hills have killed the company car, but I don’t know how well the 27′ long hot dog would have done on those curves down Lombard.

I was glad we actually got to drive down it, instead of just walk, because that was an absolute blast!

With the Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard street checked off our bucket list, we had to experience true San Francisco culture and off to Castro Street we went! We knew we had made it to the right area when we were greeted by the football field sized rainbow flag. Ok, that might be an over-exaggeration! I’m not exaggerating though when I say that we saw a handful of naked men on a street corner – I’ll spare you that photo though!

From there, we scouted out our home for the night – a youth hostel on Union Square. This was Abe’s first stay in a hostel and it didn’t fail to deliver on the grimy, yet eccentric experience you expect from a hostel.

We had to go down a shady back alley, and up the walkup, but eventually we made it to our cozy four-man room that we would be sharing with a French couple.

Since it was no Four Seasons, we dropped our bags and grabbed a bite to eat.

Over dinner we decided it was time for Abe to experience another first: an authentic musical. The Scottsboro Boys, a Tony-nominated musical based on 1930’s racist America, was playing just down the street from our hostel. At only $15/ticket it was a steal!

The musical was fantastic. Even though it was a dark story line, recounting the wrongful convictions for several African American boys, it was done in such a way that it was actually very engaging and fun.

The next day we were supposed to head to Alcatraz, but we missed the memo that you have to buy your tickets days in advance for that! Bummer!

Cutting our losses, we decided to go for breakfast. One of the previous Hotdoggers had recommended an app for my phone called TVFoodMaps. The app maps out all the restaurants around your location that have been featured on TV food shows, like Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Talk about the best app ever! At it’s suggestion, we decided to try Dottie’s True Blue Cafe.

We knew it would be good when there was a line out the door. Waiting to be seated, I had plenty of time to peruse their menu and scope out all the pastries they had on their counter. They’re known for blueberry cornmeal pancakes, but what caught my eye almost immediately was this enormous s’mores bar.

Abe and I ended up being seated next to another duo, all at the same table. I couldn’t resist this s’mores bar (even at 10 in the morning) and saw the perfect opportunity to make friends. I ordered one for the table, they heated it up, and we split it four ways. Talk about five-star sanctimonious! The girl said, “alright, I think it’s time to get each other’s names now,” and we officially met Holly and Josh.

Breakfast was an absolute delight. I had a spice pancake with pepper jelly. Abe had these black bean cakes that were also to-die-for! Holly let me try the Whisky Fennel Sausage Scramble that Dottie’s is known for, which was out of sight. I can definitely say the best part of traveling is making those unexpected friends.

After they rolled us out of breakfast, we crossed the Bay Bridge and went off to UC Berkeley. Abe and I wandered around campus for a bit before going to Sather Tower, their 307′ clock tower, the third largest bell-and-clock tower in the world! For only $2 we went up to hear the noon 61-bell carillon performance.

We also poked around their law school for a bit. With the current job only lasting a year, Abe is on the lookout for his next steps. I had the privilege of teaching a lecture at this high class establishment.

Our last stop in San Francisco was a very special one to me. My mom, whose blog about being an expat in Istanbul you can read here, is a librarian. I grew up with some simply fabulous books, one of which was “Fanny at Chez Panisse.” It’s the story of Chef Alice Waters’ daughter and her adventures at Chez Panisse, a fine dining French restaurant in the bay area.

Abe and I originally planned to have lunch at their cafe, but because we left breakfast at 11:30 and our lunch was planned for 12:30 we were just too stuffed with s’mores and had to cancel. I still went to check it out though and bought an autographed copy of the book! And with that as our final stop, we headed back down to Monterey.

We did head to Milpitas, CA one evening to have dinner at Abe’s friend’s house. Max, who Abe knows from their service together in Kuwait, Erich, and their parents put on an incredible meal for us – all with very unique and ethnic food, much of which I had never heard of much less tried!

We started with Jack Fruit, which was this sticky, tropical goodness.

For dinner we had chicken hearts and gizzards (yes, I tried them – yes, they were tasty!) and a goat curry. Their mom is from Seychelles, an African island, and a lot of the food was native to her culture. I also tried mussels for the first time. (How did I get this far in life without trying all these foods?!) Abe and I have really lucked out with these homemade dinners recently! We may be back after a meal like that.

Monterey

The next few days we actually got some work done! After working, Abe and I went for a nice run along the trails in Ford Ord Dunes State Park. I ran there earlier in the week when it was cloudy and overcast. The second run there it was sunny and spectacular. This time I went the opposite direction of my first run (which had disappointedly ended up running along the streets) only to discover how how beautiful, yet hilly that side of the park is. It’s like there were sand dunes or something there!

Nothing beats a good seven mile run like a walk on the beach. Although that was almost a workout in itself!

That night we headed down to Cannery Row in Monterey at the suggestion of just about everyone, including my very trustworthy Grandma. We had dinner at a pretty good Mexican restaurant, which should have included “breath-taking views” on the menu. Abe and I look out our window overlooking the ocean only to see two seals!

Also on the agenda for that evening was going to a tattoo place so Abe could get a new tattoo. Anyone who knows me, knows I love going with people to get tattoos – especially if I’m the one who convinced them! Anyone who knows me also knows that I’ll claim to get a tattoo or piercing with them, but would never actually follow through!

(The one footnote there is the great Nose Piercing Incident of 2008, when my girlfriends made me go first! The nose piercing lasted a whopping three months, but I did it!)

2008 Throwback pic!

While I was waiting for Abe to get his tattoo set up, I perused options for myself. They had this wall with countless frames and I told Abe to give me the coordinates for a frame and I would get something tattooed from one of them. D-8 tattoos were all bleeding skulls and H-12 consisted entirely of bald eagles. Abe clearly wasn’t any good at picking coordinates, so I had to enlist the help of someone else to help me pick out my first tattoo – that’s how I met Cleveland Dave.

Dave was in the shop getting WANDERLUST tattooed on his legs. Once I heard that, I knew this guy was going to be awesome! He was doing WANDER on one and LUST on the other, and I warned him that he better not to lose a leg, because then he’d just end up a lustful one-legged guy! Putting up with my bad jokes, he was still down to try his hand at picking out coordinates. Unfortunately, I wasn’t up to get a magic 8 ball and that game ended pretty quickly! (I hope you’re happy Mom and Dad if you’re reading this!)

Abe and I ended up leaving that tattoo parlor both bare because they couldn’t do exactly what Abe was looking for. Oh well, I love going on adventures like that!

Then, our last day in Monterey turned out to be, by far, the best day on the job yet! It’s awesome that the last two Sundays have been our best days in each place. We’re certainly setting a pattern of ending on a high note.

Sunday started with an absolutely excruciating run along the ocean, but I’ll be dammed if I didn’t feel awesome after it! I think I was just exhausted when I started, but after running next to the coastline I couldn’t have been in a better mood. At one point during the run I heard some barking – turns out there were a pack of seals on the rocks down by the beach!I mean, how cool is that? My runner’s high at the end of the run was sky-high and that pretty much continued for the rest of the day.

So why was the rest of the day so incredible? Well, let’s start with our event – the Carmel Beach Dachshund Society Wiener Roast. Yep – wiener dogs, wieners, and the Wienermobile! We pulled up, a full 45 minutes before the event was actually going to start, to more than 50 little Doxies!

And just like that, I spent the entire day just playing with dogs! How could I have had more fun?

Assured this was probably the coolest thing happening in the area, I invited Cleveland Dave down for all the fun!

After the event Abe and I had plans for one more touristy thing we had not yet done in the region, the scenic 17 Mile Drive around Carmel and Monterey. Dave, relatively new to the area with the Army, hadn’t been so he came along too.

What an asset he was to the trip – he narrated the trip for us in fantastic British accent!

Disappointingly, I was not able to get a stamp for my park passport on this drive! For $9.75 you saw some gorgeous coastline, some incredible houses, and a lot of golf courses. For the more golf-savvy that course might have been a big deal, but for as an amateur put-putter it left little impression on me.

With our bucket list for the area complete, it was time for dinner! Abe opted for Mexican food back at the hotel, and so Dave showed me around to the best Thai place in Monterey! I have been craving Indian or Thai food for awhile, but since Abe knows the best mexican places everywhere we go I haven’t been able to indulge!

We headed down to a quieter downtown area of Monterey that wasn’t the tourist trap of Cannery Row. Not only was the area perfect, but the restaurant was also one of the best yet! At 7:00 on a Sunday you would expect any restaurant to be dead, but this place was packed, with a wait! Definitely worth it!

I had a pineapple coconut chicken curry and Dave went with basil pork. Normally one person always orders something that’s the standout winner, but both of these dishes were delicious!

The dinner was topped only by the conversation. With an undergrad and masters degree in history, I was already impressed. However, Dave is also studying Farsi at the military language institute in town! That’s not something you hear every day. He also backpacked through Europe by himself for six weeks after graduating school. You can see where the WANDERLUST tattoo stemmed from!

I think I need to get back to Monterey just to hear more about all these awesome adventures and get ideas for my own travel bucket list!

And that was it for Monterey! With an absolutely incredible last day, start to finish, I headed back to the hotel to pack for the next adventure: Los Angeles!